Source: Giorgio Perottino - World Rugby via Getty Images

The ultimate Qualifier WXV

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Italy v Spain

Stadio Walter Beltrametti, Piacenza
22 July

This match takes its special place in history as the very last qualifier to decide the three tiers of the WXV. The winners gain the last available spot in WXV2, the losers go to WXV3.

If you have the gift of sympathy, you could direct it towards Las Leonas: we might call them the eternal bridesmaids. Cast out of the 6 Nations in 2007 at the whim of the 6N board, they have since become the almost permanent winners of the European Championship, where they record wins like 70-0 v Netherlands and 90-5 v Sweden. At least the WXV is designed to help nations like them to raise their profile. In stark contrast Le Azzurre have been assured of permanent high-class rugby in the 6N.

The gulf between the two teams lies principally in experience. While you may recognise plenty of names in the home team listed below, only a few of the Spaniards will be familiar. Patricia Garcia has retired; the captaincy passes to Cris Blanco who has recently moved from the defunct Wasps to Ealing Trailfinders. A previous captain, Laura Delgado, once of Exeter, now a champion with Gloucester-Hartpury, finds herself on the bench.

The head coach, Juan González, sets his sights high. He is sure his squad can take their place alongside other European sides like Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales, headed only by France and England.

This isn’t quite a ‘winner-takes-all’, though it remains to be seen how large a gap will develop between the tiers and the six teams within each. At last Spain will have the chance of regular competition from across the world. It’s self-evident that the more they play, the better they will become.

Who knows? Perhaps one day they will be allowed back into the elite level of the Six Nations where they really belong.

For the Future:

The winners will meet Japan, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa and USA in Cape Town.
The losers will meet Colombia, Fiji, Ireland, Kazakhstan and Kenya in Dubai.

Italy (world ranking 9th)

From: Gaia Buso*,Beatrice Capomaggi, Alice Cassaghi, Giulia Cavina*, Alyssa D’Incà, Giordana Duca, Valeria Fedrighi, Lucia Gai, Elisa Giordano, Francesca Granzotto, Laura Gurioli, Isabella Locatelli, Veronica Madia, Gaia Maris, Aura Muzzo, Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi, Alessia Pilani*, Alissa Ranuccini, Beatrice Rigoni, Michela Sillari, Emanuela Stecca, Sofia Stefan, Emma Stevani, Sara Tounesi, Silvia Turani,Vittoria Vecchini
Head Coach: Giovanni Raineri

Spain (world ranking 13th)

Ines Antolinez, Cris Blanco (captain), Sidorella Bracic, Cristina Garcia, Elena Martinez, Maria Calvo, Alba Capell, Carmen Castellucci, Lucia Diaz, Zahia Perez, Clara Piquero, Maider Aresti, Alba Vinuesa, Claudia Perez, Ines Bueso

Bench: Marieta Roman, Maria Castillo, Laura Delgado, Sara Martori, Nerea Garcia, Julia Castro, Iciar Pozo, Sara Rodriguez
Head Coach: Juan González